Senate Talks Hit Snag, but Reid Sounds Optimistic

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks at the Capitol.
National Journal
Michael Catalini
See more stories about...
Michael Catalini
Oct. 13, 2013, 1:33 p.m.

With Sen­ate lead­ers now driv­ing talks to re­open gov­ern­ment and avoid a debt de­fault, the dis­cus­sion hit a snag Sunday over budget caps writ­ten in­to law in 2011. Des­pite the hitch, Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id wrapped up a rare week­end ses­sion on a pos­it­ive note.

With just four days un­til the debt-ceil­ing dead­line, Re­id said he had a pro­duct­ive talk with Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell and that he’s “op­tim­ist­ic about the pro­spects for a pos­it­ive con­clu­sion.”

“I wish I could give you all the de­tails,” Re­id told a few re­port­ers as he left the Cap­it­ol. “But that wouldn’t be ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Earli­er, sen­at­ors clashed over spend­ing caps in the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion. Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans ar­gued their Demo­crat­ic col­leagues in­sist on a CR that would bust the Budget Con­trol Act caps, but Demo­crats counter that they’re on re­cord sup­port­ing those caps through mid-Novem­ber.

Also on Sunday, Mc­Con­nell called on Demo­crats to sup­port a pro­pos­al based on an of­fer from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and sup­por­ted by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that in­cludes a six-month ex­ten­sion of the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion, a three-month debt-lim­it ex­ten­sion, and a delay of the med­ic­al-device tax.

“It’s time for Demo­crat lead­ers to take ‘yes’ for an an­swer,” Mc­Con­nell said in a state­ment.

A group of Demo­crat­ic sen­at­ors, in­clud­ing Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Mark Pry­or, D-Ark., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Joe Don­nelly, D-Ind., and Manchin, as well as An­gus King, I-Maine, called the ne­go­ti­ations “pro­duct­ive,” but said there’s no agree­ment.

Des­pite the dis­agree­ment, just the latest in a pub­licly par­tis­an brawl to re­start gov­ern­ment and steer the coun­try away from de­fault, law­makers say their lead­ers have at least fo­cused on the right ques­tions — a sug­ges­tion that Con­gress have moved away from re-lit­ig­at­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act.

“If we can get the ad­her­ing to the Budget Con­trol Act caps back where they should be, which is again settled law, my sense is the ne­go­ti­ations could move ahead pretty quickly,” said Sen. Bob Cork­er, R-Tenn.

At is­sue, ac­cord­ing to Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an aides, is the length of time for a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion to fund ap­pro­pri­ations and for an ex­ten­sion of the debt lim­it.

Re­pub­lic­ans want as long a CR as pos­sible, up to a year. The think­ing is that the longer the CR goes, the more se­cure are the spend­ing cuts locked in dur­ing the 2011 Budget Con­trol Act. On the debt lim­it, though, Re­pub­lic­ans want a brief ex­ten­sion to al­low for a fuller de­bate on spend­ing cuts and en­ti­tle­ment re­form.

Demo­crats, on the oth­er hand, want the op­pos­ite. They seek a short­er-term CR so they can, the hope is, get to a budget con­fer­ence and re­set the top-line spend­ing fig­ure. Demo­crats want a longer debt-lim­it ex­ten­sion to avoid the kinds of cuts they view as pain­ful.

Re­id dis­missed the no­tion that Demo­crats want to bust the so-called BCA caps.

“Any talk about break­ing the caps is not any­thing that came from us,” Re­id said.

Still, Re­pub­lic­ans see it dif­fer­ently.

“I think between the White House pos­sibly pulling back Sen­ate Demo­crat lead­er­ship two nights ago and then just con­ver­sa­tions in their caucus — I think there’s been a little bit of a step back from the settled law of the Budget Con­trol Act,” Cork­er said.

The GOP po­s­i­tion promp­ted a swift reply from Demo­crats who point to the CR as evid­ence that they voted to keep the caps.

“The sug­ges­tion that Demo­crats in­sist on break­ing the budget caps is false and be­lied by the facts,” said a Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate lead­er­ship aide. “Demo­crats all voted for the Sen­ate-passed short-term CR at cur­rent se­quester levels.”

Sen­ate Demo­crats sup­por­ted a CR at an an­nu­al­ized rate of $986 bil­lion, which tracked with the House’s fig­ure as well, but they’re eager to go to a budget con­fer­ence to fight for their high­er top-line fig­ure of $1.058 tril­lion.

Des­pite the “step back,” Cork­er said he’s hope­ful Re­id and Mc­Con­nell would be able to work out an agree­ment “by the time we all go home to­night.”

Mc­Con­nell, ac­cord­ing to an aide, was not at the Cap­it­ol, but could come in at a mo­ment’s no­tice if needed and was avail­able by phone.

What We're Following See More »
SUFFOLK POLL
New Survey Shows Clinton Up 9 in Pennsylvania
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

If a new poll is to be believed, Hillary Clinton has a big lead in the all-important swing state of Pennsylvania. A new Suffolk University survey shows her ahead of Donald Trump, 50%-41%. In a four-way race, she maintains her nine-point lead, 46%-37%. "Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the past six presidential elections, going back to Bill Clinton’s first win in 1992. Yet it is a rust belt state that could be in play, as indicated by recent general-election polling showing a close race."

Source:
$500 MILLION PROJECT
Obama Library Heading to Jackson Park in Chicago
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Barack Obama has chosen Jackson Park, a lakefront park that once hosted the world’s fair on the city’s South Side, for his $500 million presidential library, according to a person familiar with the matter."

Source:
THREE NIGHTS RUNNING
Democrats Beat Republicans in Convention Ratings So Far
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Wednesday was the third night in a row that the Democratic convention enjoyed a ratings win over the Republican convention last week. Which might have prompted a fundraising email from Donald Trump exhorting supporters not to watch. "Unless you want to be lied to, belittled, and attacked for your beliefs, don't watch Hillary's DNC speech tonight," the email read. "Instead, help Donald Trump hold her accountable, call out her lies and fight back against her nasty attacks."

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many VIPs Were the Secret Service Protecting in Philly Last Night?
6 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Seven, according to an official Secret Service tweet.

Source:
‘MOGUL,’ ‘DAREDEVIL’
Candidates’ Code Names Revealed
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The Clintons will retain their Secret Service "code names from the last time they lived in the White House. Hillary Clinton is EVERGREEN and Bill ClintonEAGLE. Donald Trump is MOGUL, according to reports, and Melania Trump MUSE. The vice presidents get code names, too: Mike Pence is HOOSIER—a little on the nose—and his wife HUMMINGBIRD. Tim Kaine is DAREDEVIL, somewhat ambitiously. His wife's? To be determined."

Source:
×